Saturday solutions for stewing

Get out your crock pots and Dutch ovens! It is time to stew a few ideas throughout the day to see if they have merit. This is not intended to solve world problems, but are some changes that might help. We can only try.

I love Pope Francis. He is entertaining the idea to slightly alter the end of the Lord’s Prayer. It sounds reasonable, but here is a more provocative change that will help many Catholics – allow Priests to be married again. What you might say, again? Yes, Priest were married until the 1100s, when it was banned, with some continuing to be married into the 1500s, as they did not get the memo. This would reduce pedophilia in the Priesthood and attract a more community-minded type of minister, who knows about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Money and the influence it buys is a huge problem in the US. Here are a few changes. Pass a 28th amendment that says money does not equate to free speech and overturns Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court. The former greases the skids for dark money and the latter lets big donors influence local races they have nothing to do with. If you are not a voter in that location, you should not be able to fund the race. The other amendment is to shorten the election process and offer term limits as we do for the President. This will be cheered by many. Twelve years is enough for a Senator and Congressperson.

The Washington Post did an in-depth piece that counted the number of out-and-out, provable lies made by the last two Presidents. Our friend Gronda did an excellent piece on this last week*. The verdict, Obama in eight years had 18 lies, averaging to two per year. In ten months, Trump had 103. To add to this, a study was done by Politifacts that concluded Trump lies 69% of the time as President and 70% of the time as a candidate. But, this is not new, as his five biographers and ghost writer for “The Art of the Deal” said Trump has a problem with the truth. Stew on this comment – if you see Trump talking or read his tweeting, the odds are that he is lying. He said the FBI is in tatters, which is directly contradicted by two people he appointed – Jeff Sessions and Chris Wray, the head of Justice and FBI. He also keeps saying there is no collusion….

Finally, the best line I heard by a pundit was quite simple. People considering running for office – if you have sexually assaulted or harassed someone in the past – please save us the time and you the embarrassment and do not run for office. It will come out. I personally do not know why supporters of Roy Moore and Donald Trump cannot fathom that they each sexually assaulted and harassed women. The sad truth is one got elected and one almost did. But, neither should have won as both are men of little character. We have not heard the last of Trump’s travails, although he will deny it.

* https://grondamorin.com/2017/12/15/the-truth-about-president-trump-versus-president-obama/

Buying America for $889 Million

What you say, you did not know America was for sale? A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how the oligarchy is more empowered to buy political influence given the amount of money in politics. This investment is further facilitated by the Citizens United and McCutcheon US Supreme Court decisions which give greater reign to folks with money to fund political candidates.

On cue, the Koch Brothers, two of the wealthiest men in America whose money is traceable to the fossil fuel industry, have publicly stated a desire to invest $889 million in the 2016 Presidential race. Note the use of the term “investment” rather than “spend.” The Koch Brothers, like other members of our oligarchy, are investing in a politician to win to insure their interests are representated. The Koch Brothers are citizens, just as we are, and are entitled to invest their money, but the remaining citizens need to be asking more questions.

– Why would you spend $889 million to sway an election?

– What do you expect in return for such an investment?

– Is the fact that your money is linked to the fossil fuel industry have anything to do with your investment in the potential next President?

I mention this last question in that the industry has been in full public relations campaign mode ever since “An Inconvenient Truth” was produced to reveal the impact of climate change. The PR campaign has been hugely successful in first convincing some that climate change was a hoax. Now that it is apparent climate change is not a hoax, the line in the sand has been redrawn to say climate change is real, but the evidence that it is man-influenced is based in imperfect science.

These are public relations strategies meant to confuse the issue and allow the continued expansion or perpetuation of fossil fuel retrieval and use. It should be noted the same public relations firm that was so successful with the hoax campaign is the same one who has been telling us how safe fracking is. The lack of safety of the fracking process is increasingly becoming apparent as the evidence of water and air pollution, earthquakes and environmental degradation mount.

While I am disappointed in some of the measures taken by President Obama on fossil fuel expansion, he is at least doing something about climate change and accelerating expansion in renewable energy which is producing jobs, as well. Yet, the deference to the fossil fuel industry made by the President is not good enough for some of our wealthy citizens who benefit from the fossil fuel industry. With a faster migration away from fossil fuel needed, the Koch Brothers need a President that will do their beckoning to push off climate change actions that the rest of the world is doing. We are already ten years behind where we should be, but they want to push it further out, until it is too late and they have made their money.

These are the questions we should be asking. Since we do not pay attention and some who do will only pay attention to pseudo news sources that are speaking from the Koch playbook, we are not in a good a position in our country to fend off the wolves from our democracy. I recognize there are wolves on both sides of the political equation, but we need to be mindful of who money is being spent by and on and ask questions. Please look into the Move to Amend the constitution to not equate money with free speech and to note that corporations are not people. A link to the petition is below. http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/petition.

To be honest, there is very little chance that “we the people” can hold back this tide. Money is power and does buy influence, but we must at least do our best to maintain our democracy and keep our politicians honest. We can start by paying attention to real news and asking more questions.

There are votes and there are votes that count

A couple of events occurred last week that galvanized my concern for democracy in our country. They impede our essential right that each of our votes is important and it should be made as easy as possible for us to cast them. Yet, after last week, it is apparent that all of our votes are not important and they certainly are not equal. We have been evolving toward this, but American democracy is up for sale and it goes to the highest bidder. Unless you have a lot of money, your voice does not really count that much. If your call as a constituent is answered, it will only be after your legislator takes a call from someone across the country that funded his or her campaign.

Last week, our Supreme Court ruled on a case called McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission. In essence, the 5 to 4 ruling said it was OK for someone to spread his or her money around and fund as many candidates as possible. Apparently, the previous rule was infringing on the freedom of speech of wealthy people to have a stake in candidates around the country. When added to one of the worst rulings ever made by our Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case, people with money and influence can attempt to buy as many elections as possible. The latter ruling on top of previous ones allows unlimited funding of Super PACs to fund advertisements to discredit an opponent of one they favor. These rulings make it easier for an oligarchy to rule our country and state. My friend Barney has a great post on this topic from last week: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/04/page/2/

That was only the beginning of the week’s events. Various states like mine in North Carolina (NC) have put forth similar, restrictive voter suppression laws under the guise of Voter ID. A few months ago, a less suppressive law than the one in NC was found unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. The NC law is being sued for unconstitutionality by four separate entities with multiple parts of the law designed to suppress votes of the elderly, African-Americans and college students. This independent voter will not be surprised to see it declared as such when the ruling is made. In fact, the NC Attorney General told the legislature that this law was unconstitutional before it was passed.

These Voter ID Laws were passed to combat the illusion of rampant voter fraud. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell noted in a speech in Raleigh there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud. Our rampant voting problem in this country is not enough people voting. But, last week in an effort to show there is rampant voter fraud, a study was done and found 765 cases of potential dual state voting cases in the last presidential election in NC. This should be looked into as to why this happened, but let’s put things in perspective and look at the numbers. In the 2012 presidential election, North Carolinians cast 4,499,039 votes. If you divide 765 by 4,499,039 you get a result of .017% (less than 2/100th of a percent). This very low percentage would support Mr. Powell’s assertion that we do not have rampant voter fraud.

So, what should we do about all of this? First, we should mute every campaign commercial we can. Just don’t listen to what the funders are selling. In the last Presidential campaign, FactCheck.org said only 1 out of 3 commercials for Romney was fully correct and 1 out of 2 for Obama. So, with those percentages, you are more informed by not watching. Second, we should get informed about the candidates and not the party they represent. Read and watch reputable news sources and not those who will have a biased spin on the news or cover the game of politics and not the issues. The latter especially includes Fox News and MSNBC which provide a version of the news that is spun to fit the demographics of viewers.

Third, let’s advocate common sense voter laws. Let’s start with passing bi-partisan redistricting laws designed to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is harmful to governance and it hurts both parties, as we end up with unopposed candidates and makes it easier for politicians who are the party fringes to get elected. Next, let’s repeal all Voter ID Laws like the one in NC, before they are ruled unconstitutional; that will save legal fees and let us replace them with more common sense laws to promote voting. A new Voter law should include automatic runoff voting, which means you rank your candidates, so when a runoff is needed, the system can do a runoff election without another vote. This is far cheaper and runoff elections often vote in a candidate with fewer than 10% of the voters making it to the polls. Let’s also change how we call on people for jury duty. This is an impediment to people signing up for voting. And, let’s repeal any laws that make it easier to influence elections of judges. The change made last year in NC, e.g., is akin to the horrible Supreme Court decisions above as it gives people with money too much influence over judges.

Democracy is under fire. We need to do what we can to make all of our votes count. The above is a start. But, don’t just believe me, I would encourage you to watch Bill Moyers’ documentary from earlier this year called “State of Conflict – North Carolina” to get a better sense of how our democracy has been polluted in my state as an example of what can and is happening. http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-state-of-conflict-north-carolina/